A Brand New Look at Stereotypes
Learn how to discover the truth about nations by looking at stereotypes from a different angle!
No matter who you are – an ESNer, an exchange student, a keen traveller, or just a person dreaming about becoming one of those – you are probably into making international friends and learning more about different cultures; otherwise you wouldn’t be here, reading the ESNblog, in the first place. But what comes to mind first when you meet new people in a multicultural environment?
In general, a stereotype is a set of beliefs about a nation, its typical qualities, and traditions. Stereotypes might be useful, as they help you find your footing in the diverse and complex world. However, they tend to have negative and ironic implications as well as oversimplifying the subjects. But what if we learn to ‘read’ stereotypes in the right way? What if we look at what they say from a different angle? Is it possible to derive any truth about nations from stereotypes? Let’s do a little research and see!
What we are going to do now is basically take five stereotypes from five different countries and ‘translate’ them into a more positive language. It is not rocket science, so after several examples you will be able to do it yourself quite easily.
Ready, set, go!
Stereotype: Italians are exceptionally emotional, irresponsible, and disorganized. The only things they care about are pizza, pasta, wine, fashion, parties, sex, and their mothers. They cannot plan anything and do not think about their future at all.
Stereotype revised: Italians know how to enjoy each moment of their lives and find happiness and beauty in small things like food. They care deeply about their families. They are also the ones who will always tell you sincerely how they feel and won’t hide their emotions from you.
Stereotype: Spaniards are incredibly lazy. They spend half of the day having a nap (siesta time) and the other half drinking sangria, dancing flamenco, and throwing tomatoes at each other during local Tomatinas.
Stereotype revised: Spaniards can distinguish work hours from the time when they can relax and spend time with their family and friends. The energy they gain from the siesta helps them move mountains the rest of the day! They are also experts at having fun, organising social events, and creating strong bonds in local communities.
Stereotype: The French are selfish snobs who are rude to tourists and reluctant to speak any language apart from French. And they are just weird. They eat weird food like frogs and snails and wear weird clothes like striped shirts and berets.
Stereotype revised: French people genuinely love their culture, language, and traditions. Simply saying “bonjour” instead of “hello” will immediately endear you to them. Also, they are not afraid to be themselves, even when not everyone understands them.
Stereotype: Germans will never do anything spontaneously or out of emotions, they are never late (and will hate it if you are) and never break any rules, not even the silliest ones like ‘wait for the little green man to show before crossing the road, even if there is no car in sight’.
Stereotype revised: Germans have definitely mastered the art of being organised and responsible. These are people you can feel safe and sound with and rely on, as they take life seriously and always keep their promises.
Stereotype: Finnish people are poker-faced introverts. If you are to meet them, you had better remember that silence is not awkward at all, smiling to strangers is inappropriate, and a kiss on the cheek is probably the most outrageous thing in the world.
Stereotype revised: Finns might be quiet with strangers, but when you earn their trust, you will discover how friendly, helpful, and hospitable they are. They are also sincere, so when they smile or say something, you can be sure that they actually mean it.
Okay, now you can try ‘reading’ stereotypes yourself. Next time you have international company, make the most of what you already know about different nations and cultures – even if it is just a bunch of stereotypes! A little bit of imagination will help you derive something useful and positive from them. If you believe this is true, share your own stories with us!